Ambode meets business leaders, promises 24-hour economy

ALL Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, has promised the business community and corporate sector a 24-hour economy if elected as the governor on February 28, 2015.

    In a statement signed by his Director of Media and Communications, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the APC candidate spoke at two well-attended fora in the past few days to enumerate his vision for a “clean, secure and more prosperous Lagos.”

    The former Accountant General of Lagos State, who is also a fulbright scholar first spoke to some select business community gurus and entrepreneurs last Wednesday at the Civic Centre at an event tagged ‘An Evening with Akin Ambode.’ It held under the auspices of his colleagues with whom he attended the Federal Government College, Warri.

   Ambode’s latest parley with the corporate sector held on Sunday at the Oriental Hotel in Lekki Lagos. His message to top industry players and business moguls at both events was similar: Lagos has recorded undeniable growth in the past 15 and half years due to the consistency of vision of the APC and that the next for year deserves continuity of that mission from a governor,  who is qualified, prepared and well-tutored in the art of governance.

   Ambode, who holds a Master’s degree in Accounting and qualified as a chartered accountant at 24 said he was glad about the opportunities to interact and share ideas on how best to move Lagos forward, adding that he considered those in the gathering as “worthy partners and major stakeholders in growing the economy of Lagos State.”

   The University of Lagos trained Ambode said if given the opportunity to serve this great state, “Lagos will be open for business 24 hours a day and seven days a week making it a true 24/7 economy. For a mega city to thrive, we must have a holistic plan to make the city attractive and investment-friendly both domestically and internationally.

    “The importance of Lagos and how its resources are managed have national implications either positively or otherwise. Lagos is the most populous city in Nigeria and the seventh fastest growing city in the world. We are home to approximately 21 million people, and we are the economic heartbeat of this great nation and indeed West Africa at large. It is in the interest of this country that we all jointly and collectively play our part in ensuring that Lagos remains prosperous.”

     According to him, the host community of any business must be accommodating for that business to thrive and prosper, stating that he is proud to say that the people of Lagos and its government have been friendly and welcoming to investors, migrants and the business community in general. He promised to ensure that such rapport between the state and the business community would continue to be so under his watch. 

     He said: “I have spent a greater part of my life in government rendering public service and learning the rudiments of good governance. I derive joy in encouraging and seeing young people succeed and actualise their dreams. It inspires me, it energises me, and it gives me hope for the future.”

   Ambode explained that the GDP of Lagos State is estimated to be $91bn, which he added is higher than the GDP of 42 countries in Africa including Kenya with $66bn, Ghana with $61.7bn and Tanzania with $58.44bn. “In fact Lagos’ GDP is equivalent to the GDP of 19 African countries added together! I dare say that Lagos’ GDP could double the estimated amount, as these figures do not take into account the informal sector, which is believed to be just as large if not larger than the formal sector. 

    “Lagos remains the only state in the country that has remained intact and undivided by any state creation exercise from the original 12 of 1967. Yet, its proceeds from the national revenue have not reflected this fundamental change in structure. Instead, it has moved downwards from a position of a state that shared 1/12 to a state sharing 1/36 of national revenue with disproportionate increase in population,” he stated. 

    The Epe-born technocrat assured the gathering the corporate sector of security, which he described as the number one condition for any endeavour to succeed. “Under my watch,” he promised, “there will be continuity in the provision of adequate security in Lagos State and I want to thank you, the business community for your contributions towards the Security Trust Funds.” 

    He added that the discouragement of criminal propensity through the continuous state-wide deployment of CCTV cameras and response teams to tackle criminal activities in the communities, will continue in his administration. 

    Ambode also spoke on power, saying electricity is a major necessity for businesses and industries to flourish. “How do we then reduce the present overhead cost of doing virtually all businesses in terms of power?  40 per cent of Business Operational Expenses (OPEX) go to alternative 

power supply. 

     Your contemporaries in the West only spend 4 per cent of their OPEX on power. This shows me that you are 36 per cent at a comparative disadvantage on your balance sheet. The LASG has set the pace by introducing Independent Power Production (IPPs) that provide safe, reliable and sustainable power to some of its critical infrastructure like hospitals, water supply, schools, administrative buildings and streetlights.”

   On transportation, Ambode said all stakeholders in the state must join hand in finding a workable solution to the gridlock and reduce the travel times on our roads this is necessary 

because it has health and economic implications, economic in terms of wastage man-hours spent on the roads while commuting, health in terms of the stress and its attendance 

risks increased irritability, in addition to provision of motorable roads, the connecting rural roads.

    He assured that if elected as governor, he would continue with Lagos State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (LASEEDS), VISION 20:20 and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

   “The time has come for us to have a policy appreciation of the employment situation, to this end, we shall set up a Lagos Employment Trust Fund with N25bn over 4 years. Through 

access to finance of a minimum of N1bn annually across the five divisions in the State, this will allow our unemployed youth and entrepreneurs have access to adequate finance for entrepreneurial ventures. We will protect the growth of our small and medium scale enterprises through tax incentives and more. A small business loan guarantee scheme will be 

Implemented and managed by reputable stakeholders from the private sector, civil society in conjunction with APC government.” 

     With regards to the rule of law as it affects businesses, Ambode said his administration would promote good corporate governance and respect the constitutional rights of citizens because at the end of the day, law is made for man and not man for law.

    “We will ensure strict adherence to the rule of law and quick access to courts for dispute resolution and protection of investment rights and obligations on transactions. I recognise that tax is a sore issue anywhere in the world from time immemorial, even in Biblical times, as it was in the beginning so it is now.  For the SME’s tax is a big issue for their survival in order to ensure and encourage them, we would look into the possibility and ensure the removal wherever we indentify duplicity in taxation. We shall continue to encourage digitalisation of tax collection.”



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